It is greatly disappointing that delegates at recent CITES/CMS meeting in Uganda could only regurgitate the same tired phrases we have all read before about the reasons for lion declines across the continent. Surely significant funds were expended to get everyone together in Uganda – airfares, hotel rooms, food and drink – but it is greatly negligent for the conference to merely trot out the same old, same old.
The delegates could have sat at home and been contacted by e-mail for their opinions?
The “conference” resolutions were these:
“Involving local communities in conservation activities and benefit-sharing, mitigating human-lion conflicts, and retaliation killing or poisoning by cattle herders and pastoralists, improving protected area management to benefit lions and restoring connectivity between fragmented lion populations. Countries also agreed on the need to investigate further the illegal trade in lion bones and other parts, the introduction of wildlife and ecosystem-based land-use practices and the need to step up transboundary collaboration to address the plight of African Lions.”
“A carefully crafted consensus on the topic of trophy hunting was also agreed in Entebbe, with all lion Range States present accepting that trophy hunting of lions, if well managed, is a good conservation tool that should not be jeopardized by CITES or CMS. In the communiqué, the 28 Range States “Highlight the benefits that trophy hunting, where it is based on scientifically established quotas, taking into account the social position, age and sex of an animal, have, in some countries, contributed to the conservation of lion populations”.
This is just old language. These sorts of “solutions” to reverse the decline in lion populations have been around for at least ten years. Yet all we realistically see is further and further declines.
So let’s get real. Lions have been ignored for a very long time while the focus was on elephants and rhinos. As has been the plight of many other species – pangolins for one.
We actually have no idea of how many lions remain in Africa. For sure, estimates have been delivered, but these mainly come from lions in protected areas. There is not a single, unbiased, and scientific count of lions in hunting areas. Read that carefully. Not one.
The trophy hunting areas are “dark holes” in terms of any independent lion population survey. Yet we are supposed to believe that lion populations are doing well in these areas? Based on what real and trustworthy information? Cecil was lured out of a protected area to be shot. He was not the only one, it is common practice for concession operators located on the borders of nationally protected areas to take advantage of lions living within.
Unless and until we have accurate and independent population counts of lions in “offtake” areas, there should be a complete moratorium on lion trophy hunts.
Meanwhile, the big question that begs is this. Why continue to exploit a species in freefall decline for commerce? Given that lions have so many threats as identified by this “conference”, why then would the delegates continue to promote further offtake as a solution?
Cut and paste all you want, but in the mean time do not engage in offtake until it can be proven to be sustainable as the very least requirement. The USA has placed a moratorium on further lion trophy hunting imports until it can be shown that such hunting is BENEFICIAL to the conservation of the species.
So let’s have that be scientifically proven.
Picture credit: cites.org/eng/saving_lions_Africa_agrees_on_ways_forward